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I started out this blog entry taking on the monumental task of providing a “Voters Guide” that intended to examine the positions of all the candidates to assist readers in selecting their choice for President. But it quickly became apparent that such a column would be FAR too lengthy and ultimately incomplete to be of any use to anybody.

Full disclosure: I’m a Richardson supporter. But no matter who the Democratic nominee will be, rest assured they have my vote come the General Election next November. But I have serious problems with the current “Top Three” front-runners (Clinton, Obama and Edwards) that has focused me on fourth place: Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson.

If you are not sure which candidate best reflects your views, I direct you to this excellent online “pick your candidate” quiz (link below)… it’s a weighted quiz that asks how “strongly” you feel about a particular issue, so even if you disagree with a candidate on something, if you don’t feel particularly strongly, that candidate may still rank high on your list of recommended choices. Because of this, be EXTREMELY dutiful when deciding just how important a particular issue is to you when answering. Results can vary greatly if you rank “immigration” as highly as your concern over “Iraq”.

Select a Candidate 2008

I frequently post comments on other political blogs, haunting them daily. And oddly, occasionally, someone will mistake my “even-handness” towards some Republicans as “support”, and suggest I am actually a Republican lurker and not the proud Liberal I claim to be. This always amazes me, since, whenever I take the above test, Dennis Kucinch always comes up as my #1 recommended candidate. Yet, I do not endorse the Ohio Representative. And here’s why:

For me, there is no more important first-goal for the next president than getting our troops out of Iraq… not years from now, not “start to withdraw eventually”, but NOW. I often direct people to the following video for my reason why:

Iraqi Police Join Insurgents to Ambush US Troops – 2:22

When we are arming and training the very people attacking us, it is time to leave, not wait until we’ve trained MORE Iraqis to shoot at us. Every Iraqi we train is a potential insurgent out to kill the occupiers in his country. And the 90% decline in violence following the recent withdrawal of British troops from Basra is ample proof that the very presence of foreign troops in Iraq is only aggravating the situation, not helping it. President Bush’s “Surge”, which is currently holding down violence in Iraq, is simply clamping down the lid on a boiling pot. That lid can not be held tight forever. If no political progress is made in the very near future, I fear that pot is going to explode in a fury of violence and bloodshed that has made everything we’ve seen up to now look like a drunken frat party.

Hillary has advocated the most leisurely withdrawal from Iraq of any Democratic candidate, unwilling to commit to removing all troops from Iraq by the end of her first term (2013).

Senator Obama and Fmr Senator Edwards have likewise refused to commit to withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq by 2013. Edwards has suggested leaving a small compliment of 3,500 to 5,000 armed U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely to guard the enormous U.S. embassy… typically the domain of the U.N..

Your choices

Now, if getting the troops out of Iraq ASAP is what you are looking for in a candidate, your choices are few (“three” in fact, Kucinich, Richardson and Republican Ron Paul). If you also want a candidate with decades of executive experience, including Ambassador, diplomat, Energy Secretary and governor of an entire state, you choices are one: Bill Richardson.

A lot of Democrats have pondered voting for Republican candidate Ron Paul in the upcoming primary. The logic here mystifies me. Simply by virtue of being “a Republican” (actually, he’s a Libertarian), somehow that makes him more electable. That is because Democrats know Republicans will vote for an anti-war Republican before they’d vote for an anti-war Democrat. Problem here is that, after Paul orders the troops home on day one, what does he do with the remaining 1,460 days of his Presidency? Paul’s Libertarian credo is to strip the government of all but its most basic functions: safety and security. Everything else is for the states and private industry to work out. If you thought “privatization” in Iraq was a colossal disaster of catastrophic proportions, just multiply that times 1000 when every formerly government run institution is handed over to a for-profit corporation. No more federal funding for everything from schools to Social Security. No FDA (“Food & Drug Association”), no Pell Grants (college tuition for the poor), and sure as hell no National Healthcare System. If you thought FEMA was bad now, imagine the nightmare when states are left to fend for themselves in the midsts of a natural disaster.

But even if you agree with all that, one other thing to consider: If you vote “Republican” during the primaries, you can’t vote Democrat in the General Election no matter who the candidate ends up being. That’s right. Even if the candidates turn out to be Dennis Kucinich vs. Rudy Giuliani, you can’t vote for Dennis. Why? Because once you vote in the Republican primary, you MUST vote Republican in the General Election. This prevents people from a rival Party from trying to influence who the opposition will be. Voters can’t turn out in droves to nominate the candidate they think would be the easiest to beat only to vote against them in November. So if you vote for Paul in the Primaries and he loses, you can’t vote against the Republican nominee come November. Keep that in mind when choosing your candidate!

ADDENDUM: There is some question regarding the universality of the aforementioned restriction. Some have suggested that there is no such restriction in their state and they can alternate Parties after voting in their state primary.

So that eliminate Paul as an option. What about Kucinich? A favorite of the online community leading many online polls, why shouldn’t he be the obvious choice?

Kucinich’s platform is admirable… “Strength through Peace” being his campaign motto. He has the most accelerated plan for withdrawing our troops from Iraq… just four months. He is the only candidate advocating switching to a straight “single-payer National Healthcare System” similar to what they have in Canada and Great Brittan. He says he’d create the Cabinet level position of “Secretary of Peace” to balance out the “Secretary of Defense”, and is strict vegan (a vegetarian that eats no cheese, eggs, or any other product of animal abuse).

And all of those reasons are why Kucinich will never be President.

His platform could best be described as “Utopian”. You may agree 100% with everything the former Cleveland mayor stands for, but reality has a way of intruding on wishful thinking. Let’s go through the above list point-by-point:

o “Withdrawing all troops from Iraq in just four months” – The ONLY way to achieve this is by way of a “full and immediate retreat”, leaving literally BILLIONS of dollars worth of military equipment behind, abandoned to the Iraqi insurgency (or worse). Many state National Guard departments are reporting that they do not have the equipment they need to respond to natural disasters, like the California wildfires or the New Orleans flood because 40% (or more) of their equipment is in Iraq. Any equipment we leave behind in Iraq will have to be replaced. It would take an army of recovery troops to go back in after we just pulled everyone out, to collect all that equipment and bring it back home… a “second invasion of Iraq” if you will, with armed U.S. troops once again going around the country searching for equipment stolen after our hasty retreat. That just would not be a palatable option for a President Kucinich, who would rather spend billions buying all new equipment than go back to Iraq to bring home what he left behind.

Also consider the implications such a hasty retreat would have image wise. Even in clear defeat, Saddam Hussein declared “Victory over the U.S.” after we kicked him out of Kuwait in 1991 but didn’t proceed on into Baghdad to oust him. Saddam celebrated “Iraq’s victory over the U.S.” every year on the anniversary of our withdrawal. Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda took credit for the collapse of the Soviet Union following their U.S. assisted ouster of the Soviets following the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980’s. Deluded, certainly, but effective propaganda is simply convincing people that a “defeat” was actually a “victory”. A rapid four-month withdrawal from Iraq where billions of dollars worth of equipment is left behind on “the battlefield” will play out as an American “retreat”, defeated and running for their lives from the all powerful Muslim “freedom fighters”.

While you may admire and respect Dennis’ reasoning, not every world leader is as rational and responsible as he. Many more are like President Bush… zealots that disavow reality in the face of hard facts, with ambitions of endless power. Plenty of countries are being led by Dick Cheney wannabees. In a negotiation between Dennis and “Cheney”, does anyone doubt that “Cheney” would not steamroll right over him?

o Second factor: immediate implementation of a Single Payer national healthcare system – No question “Single Payer” is the way to go. It is the preferred and most successful means of covering every person there is. Despite what GOP candidates may try to convince you, no other nation on Earth with National Healthcare is clamoring to trade in their system for the U.S. model.

But once again, reality intrudes on Dennis’ Utopia. Switching over immediately to a “Single Payer” government run system will instantly put tens of thousands of heath insurance workers on the unemployment line. Entire corporations have been built around the Health Insurance Industry. HMO’s. PPO’s, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, etc and so on, each employing thousands of workers. Doctors assistants across the country whose sole job it is to file claims with insurance agencies would likewise find themselves without a job. Even companies that specialize in providing computer software to doctors to aid in billing would find themselves without a market. The heathcare billing industry would be thrown into chaos.

Sadly, any change to our national heathcare system will have to occur gradually. “Starve the Beast”, as it is commonly referred. The top tier Presidential front-runners offer solutions that don’t come even close to bringing U.S. healthcare on par with the rest of the industrialized world:

Hillary Clinton, once a proponent of Single Payer national healthcare, as Senator, Hillary now endorses Republican style “tax credits” so everyone can purchase mandatory heath insurance (similar to the way we require “car insurance” before you can drive).

Barack Obama wants to make heath insurance (once again, relying on the benevolence of HMO’s) “affordable” by having government manage the insurance industry like a utility and splitting the cost of insurance between employers and employees.

John Edwards has a more admirable plan on allowing any American, regardless of age, to buy into Medicare… the most efficient heath insurance system currently operating in the U.S.. Problem is, Medicare is highly selective on what it will cover. And frequently, Medicare offsets its costs by forcing the patient to pay a hefty chunk of the bill (as much as 50% to 100% for some tests). And Medicare’s “Prescription Drug Program”, even with fixing, is accelerating the current system towards bankruptcy. Edwards’ goal of “starving the beast” by gradually shifting people over from costly private insurance over to Medicare is probably one of the most responsible solutions, but will require an extraordinary amount of modification to make work.

And all three of these systems will require you to *pay* insurance premiums on top of the taxes you already pay. Are you unemployed and can’t afford insurance? You’re out of luck. “Affordable” insurance is still an extra added expense in a time when the average American has a net NEGATIVE savings rate. No system that requires people to “buy insurance” is going to solve our current healthcare crisis. But you can’t dismantle a multi-billion dollar industry overnight without incurring disastrous unintended consequences, either.

o Point three: A “cabinet level” Secretary of Peace – An admirable goal to be sure. Kucinich correctly points out that promoting peace and stability throughout the world would be more effective and far cheaper than using military force to impose our will upon unfriendly nations. Call it the “flies with honey” theory of National Security. But in addition to the less savory world leaders I refer to above that would not hesitate to take advantage of Kucinich’s good intentions, it should also be noted that cabinet level Secretaries are automatically granted budgetary power. Now, the obvious solution here would be to shift a portion of the bloated Defense Budget over to the “Peace” budget so as not to incur any additional fiscal burden on the government. No argument that the U.S.’s Defense budget is a gargantuan monster that has grown out of control by Congress members bending over backwards for the Defense Industry to save jobs in their districts. Once again, just as with the immediate switch to National Healthcare, massive unemployment in the Defense Industry would ensue. And the powerful Heath Insurance lobby and Defense Industry lobby would join forces to make it their mission to oust any member of Congress that supports President Kucinich’s agenda.

o Point Four: He’s a vegan – I’ve pointed to this fact before to friends as to why Kucinich will never win. In 1992 (?), the first President Bush foolishly admitted that he didn’t like broccoli. Farmers threw a conniption when broccoli sales plummeted across the country. More recently, TV’s Oprah Winfrey declared on her influential talk show that “she’ll never eat beef again” during a serious look at the disgusting practices of the American Beef Industry on her program. Beef sales plummeted and the Beef Industry sued Winfrey for slander (and won). In 1993, Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi chose to drink orange juice instead of the traditional bottle of milk in the winners circle because he was part owner of an orange grove, which outraged Indiana dairy farmers that pay $10,000 a year to ensure their product is the traditional victory drink.

The American public is full of morons. They pay a premium for overpriced shoes endorsed by their favorite athlete, buy bottled water that is no healthier nor tastes any better than what comes out of their tap, and they eat… or don’t eat… what famous people do. A President that can’t endorse eating meat or any animal product has about as much chance of winning the Presidency as your average cartoon character.

The fact Kucinich admitted to seeing a UFO during the debates… over Shirley MacLaine’s house no less… only helped brand the diminutive candidate… no matter how unfairly… as a “Left Wing Loon”. WHILE he was responding to the question, my minds’ eye was already picturing him in a Star Trek uniform with rubber “Spock ears”.

Dennis Spock

Kucinich voters should give Richardson a second look

Like Kucinich, Richardson has vowed to pull ALL U.S. troops out of Iraq his first year, but within nine months not four. A more orderly and responsible rate of withdrawal that provides time to bring much needed equipment back with them, without creating the appearance of a “where’s the door” full out retreat.

Richardson’s Healthcare Program is similar to Edwards’ plan, allowing consumers the option of buying into “the same insurance program members of Congress get”. And in a November 29th interview with Air America Radio’s Thom Hartmann, Richardson said he liked the “Single Payer” insurer model and would be looking at it more closely.

A Vietnam Veteran (something he rarely talks about), Richardson has proposed giving Vets a “Hero’s Card” that allows them to obtain free, government paid heathcare at any hospital in the country… not just inconveniently located VA hospitals with questionable track records scattered throughout the U.S..

His peace credentials are unparalleled. having serving as Ambassador to the U.N. under Clinton, Richardson most recently negotiated with North Korea to allow UN inspectors back in, suspend its nuclear weapons program, and even release the remains of six U.S. soldiers killed during the Korean War.

New Mexico’s “incentives” program for promoting renewable energy sources has made it one of the most “clean energy” friendly states in the country. And Richardson’s platform includes cutting U.S. dependency on *all* oil (not just imported oil) in half by 2020… a mere 12 years from now.

Last year, the NRA (National Rifle Association)… typically the sole domain of Conservative Republicans… endorsed Richardson in his reelection bid for Governor of New Mexico. Presently, the NRA has not endorsed ANY candidate for President, demonstrating a clear dislike for any of the current crop of GOP frontrunners. Love them or hate them, the endorsement of the NRA will make Richardson a far more attractive candidate to Conservative-leaning independent voters, which could tip the balance even more in the Democrats favor.

As the governor of a southern state, Richardson has the potential of being the first Democrat to carry BOTH California AND Texas since 1964 (and only the second since Harry Truman in 1948). A Democrat that carries both states would be nearly impossible to defeat in the ’08 election. No other Democrat in the race has as good a shot at pulling that off than Richardson.

My personal opinion is that when comparing the platforms of Representative Kucinich and Governor Richardson, they are more similar than most realize. But the Richardson time frame for implementing similar programs is far more realistic and responsible.

Senator Clinton likes to tout her “experience” as reason to elect her President, but what “experience” is she talking about? First Lady? That was her only governmental title before being elected to the Senate seven years ago. Senator Obama was elected just three years ago in 2004 and Fmr Senator Edwards only served four of his six years before resigning to run for VP. Governor Richardson has more Executive Experience than the Top 3 candidates *combined*: former member of the House, Secretary of Energy and Ambassador to the U.N. under Bill Clinton, and now in his second term as Governor of New Mexico. I also believe he has a far greater chance of drawing Moderate Republican, undecided and independent voters away from the front-runners than Hillary or Kucinich.

Some have tried to dismiss Richardson’s candidacy as “more Vice Presidential material”, citing his criticism of “personal attacks” at a recent debate as evidence of his desire to be considered another candidates’ VP, rather than him just following through on his promise to run a “positive campaign”. Ronald Regan was praised for his rule: “Never speak ill of a fellow Republican”, but when a Democrat says the same thing, it’s evidence of pandering to the other candidates and a lack of self-confidence in their ability to win. That would be a tragic mistake for any voter to make here.

I recommend giving the Richardson campaign website a much deserving look:

Additional interesting reading…
DailyKos: Bill Richardson: An Upset In Iowa In The Making.